tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS April 19, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
♪ñgk3'd[ >> on this edition for saturday april 19th, the latest on the ferry disaster in south korea and the continuing stalemate in ukraine. in our signature segment, a promising class of drugs, why are americans paying so much for them, when generic versions are already available in europe? next on "pbs news hour weekend," made possible by -- ue of miriam and ira dr. wallic. >> rosalyn p. walter.
corporate funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support provided by -- and by contributions from viewers like you. from lincoln center in new york. >> good evening, thanks for joining us, after a meeting between defense secretary chuck hagel and his polish counterpart, the united states has reportedly agreed to send 150 ground troops to poland for militarywúv exercises. this as part ofz to the crisis in ukraine. poland is west of ukraine. the united states will help poland boost air defenses. word of the deal was made public in "the washington post." the ukrainian foreign minister said that ukraine will not move
this easter weekend against pro-russian sep rattists who seized ukrainian government buildings two weeks ago. yesterday he warned what he called more concrete actions against them next week. the armed separatists have refused to leave, despite the deal calling on them to end their occupation. that sank off south korea was arrested today on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. he said, i bow my head in apology to the families of the victims. two other crewimates were taken into custody, including the inexperienced third mate who was at the wheel when the ship began sinking. divers have recovered the bodies of 27 people. most are believed to have died after being trapped inside. >> japan took steps to increase surveillance on china, breaking
ground on a radar station on a remote island close to the chinese mainland. a former japanese military official is to provide japan with an early warning system for chinese missile launches. japan and china are involved in a dispute over other islands both country claims. a u.s. drone strike killed 12 in southern yemen today. there were conflicting reports about whether all those killed were members of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. the u.s. had no immediate comment on the drone strike. the united states is reportedly stepping up military shipments to rebels in "the wall street journal" reports the u.s. has sent [ for the firstve the obama administration was reluctant fearing the weapons would fall into the hands of al qaeda. the latest move comes as bashar
al assad continue to gain against the rebels. people who have enrolled for health care on a government website are being told to change their passwords. this after they were asked if the government was subject to the heart-bleed virus. officials say the measure is being taken out of an abundance of caution. and a piece of of the had has proved valuable. a colt 45 revolver owned by wyatt earp and used in the shoot-out in the ú5dñok corral,d at auction this week, the price, $225,000, 50% higher than expected. ♪ >> we wanted to follow-up on the interview judy did last night with ben rhodes about the crisis
in ukraine. rhodes called on russia to use its influence to get pro-russian demonstrators to leave government buildings they've been occupying. we're joined by timothy frye from columbia university. right now it seems russia is using its influence towcp( do opposite. >> yeah, we're not seeing the demonstrators leave buildings. they're actually flouting this agreement that was signed in geneva saying we're not bound by it, we didn't sign it. >> and there's also reports now of troops kind of mysterious troops, similar to the ones that were in crimea, russia initially defied that those were russian troops. now wewid see those troops in eastern ukraine and president putin is denying that as well. >> we see a large build-up of russian troops on the border. important to keep in mind that the demonstrations came only after there was this large build-up of troops on the other side of the border. so i imagine that pro-russian militias are looking for cues
from moscow for their actions as well as trying to drum up support locally. and they've largely been ineffective in bringing people on to their street. the maj ort of people ukraine would like to see the country remain whole and free. >> the possibility of more sanctions, is there any evidence the sanctions we've imposed so far? >> they are working in that there is much greater uncertainty with the banks. banks are unwilling to lend because they're uncertain about who is targeted here. we have the names on the list, but let's say the friend or related company of somebody on the list wants to borrow as well, banks are afraid to lend money to them for fear of trying to be seen as trying to get around the sanctions. so we've seen 60 billion fly from russia in this quarter. the russian economy is the sixth
largest in the world, but very concentrated in the natural resources sector. the capital sector comes from two state-owned banks. so in this sense, russia is vulnerable. >> what role does europe play? they're a larger trading partner. are they willing to make those choices? >> germany is the important country, getting a quarter of its energy from russia. angela merkel has been harder towards russia than her constituents. so it will be difficult to get the germans to go along. but if we see aggressive action on the part of moscow, there would be a rallying around sanctions in europe and in the united states. the tricky part, though, is that if russia continues to play the role that it is, and the situation in eastern ukraine continues to be unstable, what will be the triggering event that would allow the u.s. to rally the europeans to impose new sanctions against russia? >> so right now that trigger
event is troops crossing the border? >> we don't know what it is. part of the bargaining that's going on is trying to let the russians guess, what would be the kind of activities that would invoke sanctions? >> all right, tim frye from columbia university, thanks so much. >> thank you. ♪ >> now to our signature segment, a report released this week says americans spend more than $300 billion a year on prescription drugs, about a thousand dollars per person. some of the most expensive are medications known as biolojics. a relatively young and revolutionary class of medicines. but are americans paying more than they need to, when less expensive generic versions of these drugs are available in many other countries?
>> philip deluca is enjoying retirement after working decades on a long island railroad. the 71-year-old stays busy with his ten grandkids. >> grandpa's crew. >> lately it's been difficult to keep up. >> how has your energy been? >> no. i can't do the things i did 10, 12 years ago. >> patricia is his wife. >> he became more tired, frustrated with not being able to do the things he could do before. >> his bone marrow wasn't producing enough blood cells, and if the levels dip too low, it could be life-threatening. he had two choices, blood transfusions or medication that would boost his red blood cell count. he chose the medication. >> too tired to do the things you used to do? >> deluca's medication is known as a biologic. a relatively young and revolutionary class of drugs.
other popular drugs are embrel, used to treat arthritis and macular degeneration. unlike pills made from chemicals, they're more complex, made in living organisms, resulting in proteins. they work with the body to normalize its immune system in a way chemicals don't. executive director of research and development policy. amgen is one of the largest manufacturers of biologic, including the drug deluca takes. >> everyone is very excited about what the future holds in terms of our ability to treat diseases like high cholesterol or diseases like alzheimer's and fighting cancer. but also for diseases where a patient will have a chronic, life-long disease.
since deluca's condition is chronic, every monday morning he goes to the hospital for an injection. the biologic medication has helped, the delucas say, but it's also extremely expensive. >> when you heard the price of the shot, can you tell us what your reaction was? >> i was shocked. i was ab -- i had no idea that this could cost this much. >> had you seen a medication that has cost that much before? >> no. >> according to a bill deluca showed us, a single injection costs $1,500. under his insurance plan, his co-pay ended up being $196. and remember, he was going to the hospital every week. so the co-pay turned out to be nearly $800 a month. >> it's financially difficult. we're on a pension. and $196 a week extra coming out of that pension is a lot of money for us. >> can you afford it? >> can i afford it?
>> i have to afford it. i have to pay it. it's a bill. >> but why is it so expensive? some critics say it's because there's no system in this place in this country that would make generic biologics available. but they are sold overseas and at a much lower price and have been for nearly eight years. there they are known as biosimilars. >> there are already biosimilars on the marketplace, the discount is somewhere between 30 and 50%. so we're talking about tens of thousands of dollars of savings annually for each and every patient. >> so europe is already using these biosimilars? >> much of the world is way ahead of us. so japan, canada, much of europe already has biosimilars in their marketplace, and patients are already benefitting from both the great products and the discount. >> steve miller is the chief medical officer at express
scripts which negotiates prices with pharmaceutical companies. >> patients like deluca are forced to pay much more for their biologics because there's no competition in the u.s. in europe, there are at least five versions of deluca's biologic, where, according to manufacturers, they are sold for up to 30% less than the brand name biologic. so why aren't less expensive versions of deluca's drug or any biosimilars available in this country? that's because when congress passed the hatch-waxman bill 30 years ago creating generic drugs, biologics barely existed. >> if they could be sold, would people have access to something they don't have access to now because it's too expensive? >> just like when you use a generic drug and you have a $4 payment or $10 payment, the same thing would happen with
biolojics, you'd have a much lower co-pay. >> in 2009, the federal trade commission reached a similar conclusion. competition means lower prices. he says his company is open to competition, but cautions that biosimilars cannot be approached the same way as traditional drugs. >> they're different. there's a difference in drugs and chemicals. the prevailing thought is that generics are the same and they're the same as the brand medicine. in the future world, because they're expressed in living cells, each medicine will have its own particular profile. >> that means biosimilars will never be identical to the original biologic. according to the new england journal of medicine, given the complex nature of biologics, it's unlikely a one size fits
all can be developed. but people think they should look to the european union as a model. their agency has been approving biosimilars there for eight years. >> there's not been a single episode with a biosimilar in europe that has risen to the point of concern. and they've had a great track record. >> in an e-mail to news hour, a spokesperson for the european medicines agency wrote, biocolors have a good safety record since introduction in 2006. still, ike says new procedures have to be in place before biosimilars hit the u.s. market. >> you really have to have a program in place that gets them from the law that enables them to be approved, to the fda approval, to the way that they're going to be used in health care. >> the affordable care act, passed in 2010, authorized the fda to set up an approval process for biosimilars. but in the four years since, not a single biosimilar has hit the u.s. market. what's taking the fda so long?
>> in an e-mail to the news hour an fd spokesperson wrote congress set a high bar for a biosimilar product approval. they have to meet the standards of safety, efficacy and high quality that everyone expects and counts on. but miller says the fda has been impeded by biologic companies that have lobbied congress to stall competition. he says the strategy is designed to protect the huge profits they make off their biologic drugs. >> if you think about just one drug made by amgen, their profits a month are over $100 million. that product came on the market in 1989. >> ike says the high price of biologics is justified. >> they are expensive to manufacture. the workforce is made up of ph.d. scientists who on a daily basis are managing the production of these medicines.
so there's a tremendous amount of investment that goes into making and manufacturing high quality biologic medicine. >> some people say amgen is able to charge $50,000 a year for a particular medication because it can. because it's able to. there's no regulation. and when those issues come up, a company like amgen has been very successful at lobbying to prevent any movement in terms of price. >> i'm just not familiar with any of the pricing information. but what i can tell you is that we're a company that's focused on the future. so if there are revenues here, we want to invest in clinical studies for new clinical trials and for new medicines. >> ike says if the company were so against biosimilars, it wouldn't have its own plans to start selling them. >> one of the points amgen makes is they too are getting into the biosimilar marketplace. they don't see anything they're doing as a roadblock to getting biosimilars on the market. is that fair? >> the reality is that they
actually are well positioned to make biosimilars, but they probably make more on their branded product than their biosimilar. so it makes sense every month they can delay, makes a lot of money for them. >> now, these medicines that would be very similar to the one you're taking would require that the fda and the regulatory process and the state and the companies move very slowly to make sure that these are safe. isn't that what we want? >> how long does it take? >> and if they are being used in europe, if they're still standing and if they're still surviving, and if they're in better shape, then obviously it must be working, and it must be safe. >> deluca's doctor recently add another biologic drug to his treatment regimen. he's waiting to find out how much that will cost him. watch our earlier report
about the high cost of some generic drugs. visit news hour pbs.org. another story that caught our attention, word of a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer. it's how many drugs that are being used and how they're being targeted. so what are they doing in the uk with this clinical trial? what's so interesting about it? >> they are taking a discovery that was made here almost ten years ago now, where specific genes are damaged in lung tumors, and the damage brought on by those genes makes those cancer cells very susceptible to medication. so if you find one of these genetic changes and give a patient a drug targeting that, almost surely their cancer will shrink and normal tissues are
not affected. it's exactly what oncologists hope to do. what they're doing in the uk is developing a nationwide program partnering with pharmaceutical companies that are developers of the drugs, to do the testing in a much more generalized way, and to test for many of these different gene mutations at the same time. so in essence, a patient might have ten chances to find something in the tumor that's in their body, ten chances to get a medication. and also the pharmaceutical company supplying drugs to go along with the discovery of those genetic markers in helping individual patients. >> that's different because we're used to trials that's one drug at a time or one gene at a time? >> exactly. when everyone got the one, sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. we always wanted to know what makes an individual's cancer shrink or not. this genetic information is a
way we can do this, personalized medicine, right drug for the right patient. >> so if this trial happens successfully in the uk, does it mean it can happen here on a larger scale in the u.s.? >> it's happening all over the world. 14 hospitals here did something very much like this. there are programs in france as well. it's a worldwide movement. the fact that the uk is doing it, they're a little sometimes slower to embrace new technologies and new drugs, and the fact that they're doing it, says that this technology, this idea is becoming more and more mainstream. it's really going to accelerate progress. >> so, tell me about how this is going to make this larger shift, in terms of personalized medicine, almost on a genetic level, targeting each patient with the specific drug that could cure their cancer. >> so the way it's happening now is that when the cancer is first
discovered, these genetic tests are done. in the panel at sloan-kettering, we test for 340 different genes. then what we try to do is find the drugs that are most likely to help the person whose cancer is driven by these genes. these genes make a cancer cell horribly dependent that these genes produce. achilles heel has been the term that has been used. so if you can go after that, the cancer cells die. and these drugs are much less disruptive to normal people. if you know this person's cancer cells don't have this medicine, then we wouldn't recommend that medicine to a patient. previously it was one size fits all. every person with the illness got the same medicine. >> doctor, thanks so much. >> thank you.
♪ >> this is "pbs news hour weekend" saturday. >> from itv news tonight, a report about a practice that has made its way from africa to african immigrant communities in britain. it's called breast ironing, designs to make developing teenage girls less desirable. we spoke to one victim who has endured the ritual and its aftermath. >> koreen is a victim of breast ironing carried out in cameroon, it's said to be common there, to deter male attention. >> they put the spatula on the fire, then put it on the breast, to press the breast in. then you take a binding and tie it around the chest, so the heat
stays in for two to throw days. >> she claims the practice is happening in britain across african communities. the victims are too young, loyal, or frightened to report it. >> at the end of the day, it disfigures you as a person. >> a doctor in london has organized training to help others spot the signs. it can lead to abscesses, tissue damage, and even cause breasts to disappear. >> it can be really serious physical effects of this pounding of the breast and damaging the young breast. and of course the psychological effects of a child being injured by their mother who says it's for their own good can leave lasting psychological consequences. >> the police say it's child abuse. how far or exactly why it might have traveled is unclear. but campaigners say there's no room for cultural sensitivities. it's simply another crime against girls and women that
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